Micawber’s principles apply to national as well as household budgets. Expenditure less than revenue means happiness. Expenditure that consistently exceeds income brings misery in the form of ever-rising and more expensive levels of debt, the service of which takes an ever-larger share of revenue collected, and of all expenditure. Paying interest and repaying capital maintains your credit rating — more or less — even if it doesn't buy votes.

SA has been on this spendthrift path, without pause, ever since the global financial crisis. From fiscal 2008/2009 to date, real government expenditure has grown by an average of 3.2% per annum. Government revenues have lagged, growing by an average of 2% per annum after inflation. Those extra 1.2 points of spending make a big difference to debt levels over time. Real GDP has grown by an immiserating average of 1.2% per annum since 2009...

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